Thunderbirds Split First Day of Play In Missoula
MISSOULA, Mont. - After starting Big Sky play with a series win over Northern Colorado, the Thunderbirds continued their strong conference play in Missoula Friday in the first two games of a three-game series against the Montana Grizzlies.
Game One: SUU 2, UM 0
The opening contest between the two teams was a pitcher’s duel through and through. Starting pitchers Kirsten Hostetler and Michaela Hood matched each other almost inning for inning through the first five innings. Hostetler cruised through the opening innings giving up just one hit, an infield single by Bethany Olea, and Hood kept the Thunderbirds scoreless through her first five innings of work.
The Thunderbirds finally broke through in the sixth when left fielder Payton Hart got things started with a leadoff single down the line in left. Center fielder Sarah Murphy then bunted Hart over to second base and shortstop Kendall Kapitzke was intentionally walked to bring Karlee Manzione to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second. Manzione hit a line drive to right field and a misplay by right fielder Sydney Stites allowed Hart and Kapitzke to score and gave the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead late.
Hostetler continued her dominance in the circle in the sixth and seventh innings giving up just one hit in the seventh and shutting out the Grizzlies in the process. The win is her fourth of the season, moving her record to 4-4 in 2017. This was also her fourth complete game and first shutout of the season.
“Kirsten was a champion today,” head coach Tom Gray said of Hostetler’s performance. “She was aggressive and attacked the strike zone. I am very proud of her effort and the way she stepped up in an important game for us. She has given us an opportunity to win the series.”
Hart was the saving grace on offense for the Thunderbirds in game one, going two for three with a run scored. The only other Thunderbird to pick up a hit was Murphy who finished one for three.
Game Two: SUU 2, UM 5
After being shutout in game one, the Grizzlies wasted no time getting on the board in game two. Stites made it 1-0 in the first inning when she hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Gabby Martinez. Montana put another run on the board in the home half of the third inning when Olea hit a single to right center and Delene Colburn brought her home with an RBI double.
Down 2-0, the Thunderbirds got themselves on the board in the fourth when starting pitcher Maddy Stensby walked three straight T-Birds to load the bases. Stensby got Megan Reed to ground into a fielder’s choice, but couldn’t fully recover from the walks as she walked Leonard to give the Thunderbirds their first run.
The following inning, the Thunderbirds were able to tie things up at two when Nicole Simonson scored on a team-leading seventh double of the season from Kapitzke. The tie didn’t last long, however, as the Grizzlies answered back in the bottom half of the inning with three runs on Stites’ two-out inside-the-park home run. The home run would turn out to be a game winner as the Thunderbirds failed to score in the final two innings, falling to the Grizzlies by a score of 5-2.
“We didn’t quit at any point in time today,” Gray said. “We battled the entire way. We are going to have to hit the ball better tomorrow, but the fact that we have so much heart and never give up will be what keeps us in every ballgame.”
Coming Up Next
The Thunderbirds and the Grizzlies will play the final game of the series tomorrow in Missoula. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. Links to live stats and live video are available at suutbirds.com and gogriz.com.
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